Pork Loin Sucks. Try pork shoulder instead.
Wow, two posts in one week. And I'm not even drunk. So as the title says, pork loin sucks. Modern pigs are bred for loin that has very little fat or other objectionable texture. The end result is a flavorless chunk of meat that takes alot of work to make it taste good. This can be done, such as when making canadian bacon. But usually, people end up with a dry flavorless roast that is an affront to cuisine.
Want a better cut of pork? Try cooking pork shoulder instead. Pork shoulder has a couple of advantages over pork loin. First, it is marbled heavily with fat and is an amazingly flavorful cut of meat. Secondly, it costs about half as much or less than pork loin due to its lesser popularity among shoppers. I paid $12 for this 5.5 pound roast from Weilands. I expect at least 8 servings of meat.
Wait, it has lots of fat? How can that be a good thing? Well, the fat leads to a heightened flavor and moist quality of the meat. When you cook it, it is cooked for long lengths of time at a low temperature. As such, most of the fat drains away in the cooking process. You're not left with something unpalatable and greasy. The only downside to pork shoulder is that you have to have a long time in which to cook it.
The inspiration for this blog post is that I am cooking dinner for the in-laws tonight. We often eat together and I jump at the chance to cook for fellow omnivores, since Rachel does not eat meat. Here is my general recipe, but this is just a guideline. As long as you cook a pork shoulder for a long time at low temperatures, the shoulder will be delicious:
1 bunch celery
2 medium onions
1 head garlic
4 - 6 pound pork shoulder roast
salt, pepper and olive oil
Preheat your oven to 300 F
Roughly chop the onion and celery then place it in the bottom of a cast iron pan. You could substitute any other aromatic vegetable here you happen to have on hand. Pour some liquid into the pan (maybe 1/2-1 cup). This can be anything from wine to water or even beer.
Score the top of the roast (fat side up) with a sharp knife in a cross-hatch pattern. Place the roast (score side up) on top of the vegetables in the pan.
Mince the garlic and press it into the cross-hatches of the roast. Next sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and then finish with drizzles of olive oil.
The prep up to this point took about 15 minutes.
Toss the roast in the oven and leave it until the meat pulls apart with a fork (at least five hours - maybe more depending on the size of the roast). If you want to cheat and get it going faster, let it roast dry for a while then add more liquid to the pan and cover so it braises.
So what techniques can you take away from this? First, pork shoulder takes a long time to cook. It is a tough cut of meat but extremely flavorful. Cook it at a lower temperature for a long length of time and you will be well rewarded. This idea can be directly transfered to smoking it outdoors in the summer. Secondly, aromatic vegetables are a nice addition to roast meat. They help build a depth of flavor in whatever you are cooking. Lastly, cheap cuts of meat are a great idea for the home cook. They taste spectacular, are often simple to cook, and are easy on the pocketbook.